The 4-year-old A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 got new life breathed into it, as new actresses took on the roles of the three lifelong friends living in Sun City during the holidays.
While I’ve always loved watching the founding members on stage as Blanche, Bertha and Mabel (Shawna Franks, Jacque Arend and Stacey Reed, who also serve as writers), it was neat to see a new cast interpret the ladies. This year’s trio starred Toni Jourdan, Elizabeth Athetis and Leslie Barton, who played the memorable friends who have no problem swearing up a storm or singing about their affection for alcohol.
Tonight is the last night for the 2013 season of the play written by Denny Guge and directed by Kevin Flanagan, and the show is already sold out. I love seeing so many senior citizens in the audience for a community theater show in downtown Phoenix — next, they should go see some improv at The Torch Theatre.
Following A Bloody Mary Christmas, which hits the stage at 7 p.m., is 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe at 9:30 p.m. This is one of the coolest theater productions ever, where anyone who goes on stage gets seven minutes to do whatever they please — no auditions are required. You never know what you’re going to see, and I highly recommend it. Get tickets here.
Night of the Chicken 3 is a great way for kids and adults alike to get in the Halloween spirit. The play at Space 55, modeled after old school radio dramas that have homemade sound effects galore, features an ensemble cast revolving around the character of Andi, a high schooler who is prone to turning into a “werechicken” during times of high stress.
I’d never seen a play in the “radio drama” style, and it was really fun to watch as each castmate came up to the mic, script in hand, while a sound effects duo used everything from brightly colored fans to signify the werechicken transformation, to homemade grass to ruffle whenever a character was walking through a field. The sound effects were probably my favorite part of the show, with a table of diverse objects that created the perfect sonic backdrop to the spooky, yet totally kid-appropriate, action happening on stage.
It’s no wonder the first incarnation of the play came back in 2009 — the story is timeless, fun and perfect for getting excited about Halloween. Catch it tonight, Friday, October 18 and tomorrow, Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Space 55 in Phoenix. For more details, go here.
No matter how many times I see Rent, I don’t think I will ever get sick of the iconic musical. I first was exposed to it through the movie, then saw it on Broadway (amazing!), then saw it here in town four years ago by Nearly Naked Theatre at Phoenix Theatre. It’s back at Phoenix Theatre through Saturday, September 15, and if you’ve never seen the musical, this is a solid production. (Thanks to my friend Meaghan for taking me — read her review of the show here.)
Going from seeing Rent in the Phoenix Little Theatre to the bigger stage definitely made the props and stage set-up have a bigger impact. The whole ensemble was pretty vocally talented. There were definitely some disappointingly pitchy moments from some of the main cast members, but the more talented actors playing characters such as Roger and Mimi, plus, some stand-out ensemble members, made up for them.
Even though the musical is nearly 20 years old, I think Rent‘s story is timeless because it has a heavy focus on friendships and relationships. Plus, the music is super-catchy and will make you dance in your seat. For tickets, go here.
This past Monday night, I got to attend a preview of Circus Americana at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix as part of the Yelp Elite — special shout-out to their Phoenix community manager Lindsey Fosse, who is awesome and fosters a great local Yelp community here in the Valley.
The circus was put on by locals Taylor Circus Stars, who have six members from the family in the show. Think of Circus Americana more of a Cirque du Soleil vein, with a focus on gymnastics, clowning humor and dance. There was an elephant who made an appearance, but it was fake — don’t expect anything Ringling Bros.-scale.
The circus has a fantastical story, which takes audience members to a holiday-themed world full of ballerinas and Santa, and then a pirate world complete with a huge ship that doubles as a trampoline. A short intro story in the beginning shows kids asking Santa for what they want for Christmas, which then morphs into several scenes of everything from tightrope walking and contortionism to aerial stunts and cute comedy scenes.
For being a local production, I thought the flow of the show was great and that there was a lot of talent from the performers — many times, my mouth was left hanging open, and I thought the show overall was a lot of fun. Kids should really enjoy it, and it’s great for families. There were a couple of ways the show could have been improved — for example, I would have preferred not to see stagehands in regular clothes, not costumes, switching things in the set through the show. And the production is definitely corny — but so are the holidays, and the stunts definitely made it entertaining for me.
The show runs through Sunday, December 23, and tickets range from $24-$52. For tickets to the show, go here.
Man, it’s great when local comedians make the holidays laughable. Just like A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 has brought some naughtiness to the holiday season, local sketch comedy troupe Bully Mammoth spread their own version of holiday cheer this past weekend at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
The group performs rehearsed sketches, and for this show, all of them were holiday-themed. There was a hysterical bit about how silly Christmas traditions are created, a scene involving broken toys, and a sketch involving a new baby Messiah with a mustache. The variety of topics and characters were great, and their live show is way better than watching SNL on television.
Catch them next time on Friday, February 8 At Tempe Center for the Arts. For more information, go here.
There’s nothing that says “Christmas spirit” more than three old woman who love drinking alcohol. As someone who hates the holiday season, A Bloody Mary Christmas musical at Space 55 is actually something merry-themed I can get behind. There may be Christmas decorations all over the stage, but the local, independent production that’s been going strong for 3 years now is sassy fun that even the grumpiest Scrooge can enjoy.
The play follows three Sun City residents and lady roommates who are expected to be evicted on Christmas Day because they’ve failed to pay their HOA fees. There’s the hyper-sexual lady, the lonely lady with no family and the lady who’s been married more than 10 times but who now considers booze her greatest love. As the trio struggles to come up with their money, they reflect on their lives together and relish what will be their last holiday season living together. Interspersed between the sassy dialogue are cute, original songs (as well as loads of profanity and sex talk.)
It’s wonderful to see a black box theater production still have such great success year after year, and the audience, which contained many senior citizens the opening night I went, laughed out loud throughout and really seemed to enjoy it. It runs through December 15 on Friday and Saturday nights, and tickets cost $15 or $12 when you bring a can of food to donate. For more information, go here.
If you like visual art, music or both, you’ll love a performance by the Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble. Formed in 2004 as the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, the group combines beautiful classical music with visual art. I saw them perform Down the Rabbit Hole last night at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, playing classical works by Haydn, Beethovhen and more in front of late 18th century art and the 1915 silent film, Alice in Wonderland.
The orchestra consisted of about 40 talented musicians, who conveyed energy and passion for the music they were playing in their deft and exuberant moves. In the first act, we watched the orchestra while two screens full of British art from the 18th century played in the background, giving context to the art of Hayden’s time, as well as a visual representation of him in portrait form. The artwork made the music that much richer, and I almost felt transported to the time. It was a lot of fun to take in.
The next act featured a variety of classical music, including works by Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Alice in Wonderland was delightfully trippy, and it was really neat to see a movie from this time — with great special effects, I might add. The orchestra’s soundtrack was absolutely perfect, and there was even an original song by the Arizona Pro Arte composer in residence, Andrew Paul Jackson, which was beautiful.
The whole show was incredibly fun to watch, and at only $15 a ticket, it seems like a steal compared to traditional symphony shows. All the musicians were incredibly talented, and each show features a visual aspect, such as the live artists they’ve had in the past. Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble performs the same show tonight at Victory Lutheran Church in Mesa. For more information on Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble, go here.
Seeing stand-up comedy is one of my absolute favorite things to do, and when I get to see a funny guy or gal really up-close-and-personal, the experience is even better.
That’s why I had a blast when I checked out D.C. Pierson at The Torch Theatre this past weekend.
Part stand-up, part storytelling, his one-man show D.C. Pierson Is Bad at Girls chronicled the Phoenix native’s experience with three of his past loves–including a grade school crush and a stripper. It was a fun little memoir filled with awkward moments and lots of emotion, and Pierson has a knack at being engaging when he’s recalling memories. I especially loved that he injected a lot of silliness into the show, including funny impressions and voices, and he went off on tangents at time that made it a really great comedic show, not just boring story time.
Because The Torch Theatre in central Phoenix only holds 33 people, it almost felt like we were in D.C.’s living room listening to him speak. This was a rare stand-up show to be done in The Torch Theatre (the improv collective plans on focusing more on the theater’s own troupes before bringing in more guests), but it was a rare treat to see such a talented guy in such an intimate setting. Pierson is a collaborator with Community star Donald Glover in sketch comedy troupe Derrick Comedy, so don’t be surprised if he starts headlining bigger venues soon.
Can you believe Arizona is about to turn 100?! In honor of the state’s centennial celebration, my former employer The Arizona Republic hosts a monthly event called Arizona Storytellers.
The event is held at a different venue every month with a different theme, and I participated in it this past Friday when it was at Narcisse Champange Lounge in Scottsdale. Around 10 Arizona residents get up in front of the audience and tell stories that took place in Arizona relating to the theme. Friday’s theme was scares in the Grand Canyon State, and stories ranged from tales of ghosts and Ouija boards to burglaries and spooky living spirits. I told the story of the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life, a rollover car accident that resulted in a helicopter trip to the hospital and a totaled car.
I was extremely nervous, but it was really cool to be a part of a really amazing event that celebrates our state and the people in it. The next Arizona Storytellers event goes down Friday, November 11 at The Clayton on the Park in Scottsdale. Admission is $10 and benefits Republic Charities. For more information, and to watch videos of past speakers, log on to www.azcentral.com/storytellers.
Downtown Phoenix has something really amazing, something that makes it stand out in the national comedy scene. It’s called The Torch Theatre, and it’s the only space dedicated to long-form improv in Arizona. The theater just opened this year, and it’s wonderful to see this venue created by such a talented group of improvisers. The space is used to host classes and weekly shows, and the group behind it also puts on the annual Phoenix Improv Festival, which brings in prominent comedians from around the country.
I went to the theater last Saturday for the weekly Cagematch competition, where a challenger team takes on the champion from the previous week. The teams can perform any format they want, from one long scene with a single suggestion to short-form games throughout the show. You never know what you’re going to get, and that’s part of the fun. Audience members determine which team makes it onto the next week.
This was just one of three shows that night, and every Friday and Saturday, there is a ton of programming to choose from. Tickets generally range from $5-$10, and the full schedule can be found here. It’s fun to check out a lot of different types performances, and it’s a great way to get immersed in downtown Phoenix culture.